Fast casual has gone high-brow, healthy, and even (relatively) affordable with the opening of Le Botaniste, a botanical-based, apothecary-inspired eatery (glass tincture bottles and white lab coats…) on the Upper East Side by Le Pain Quotidien’s founder Alain Coumont.
“Like many people today, I am increasingly conscious of how our diets affect our health and environment,” Coumont said. “Le Botaniste grew from this awareness and my desire to offer a health-focused, eco-friendly, organic menu that is above all else delicious.”
The menu is 100 percent organic and entirely botanical, which means there are no animal products used on-site. The seasonally changing menu features prescriptions such as the Tibetan Mama: a combination of brown rice, peanut curry sauce, steamed greens and spicy kimchi, and the Dirty Noodle Soup made with tofu, steamed leeks, garlic and spicy ginger. There’s also a rotating list of soups and fresh juices and the menu allows patrons to design their own hot or cold entree from the many bases, spreads and toppings available. Meals are ordered at the front counter, where appetizers and entrees are displayed and assembled and can be eaten in-house in eclectic Japanese bowls or taken to-go in recycled, sustainable packaging. There’s even a selection of natural wines.
To find out more about this interesting new concept I spoke with managing director Laurent Francois.
Long Island Pulse: Can you tell us a little bit about how this concept came about?
Laurent Francois: Alain Coumont launched Le Pain Quotidien in Brussels 25 years ago, and has always been dedicated to mindful, wholesome, healthy eating. Le Botaniste, being 99 percent organic with a 100 percent meat-free, dairy-free and largely, gluten-free menu, takes his initial concept to the next level.
Pulse: How does wine fit into the picture?
Francois: When conceptualizing the space and experience Alain was interested in adding a wine bar, where people would be encouraged to linger following a meal, or even gather just to share a couple glasses of wine after work, with some easy-to share dishes.
Pulse: How did you go about selecting your wines? Are they organic?
Francois: Our wine list is all natural, which means they are organic but also without any added sulfites. The range is selected according to availability by our distributors. We also carry wines that are made on Alain Coumont’s property.
Pulse: Was the plan always to bring Le Botaniste to New York?
Francois: New York was a natural next step for us given its status as a bustling culinary center.
Pulse: What are your signature dishes?
Francois: The Super Seed Avocado and Tibetan Mama
Pulse: Can you tell us a little bit about how you go about sourcing your ingredients?
Francois: We source our ingredients through Ace Natural. They are a great organic distributor, who source locally whenever possible, and work with a lot of small family farms. Ace also cares a lot about sustainability; their philosophy aligns well with Le Botaniste.
Pulse: Will the menu change?
Francois: The food menu will see seasonal changes and the wine list will change depending on availability. Since the wines we carry are from small vineyards with small production, our list will rotate fairly regularly.
Pulse: How do the prices compare to Le Pain Quotidien?
Francois: Very similarly. The items at Le Botaniste offer great value—you can enjoy a filling meal for $15.
Pulse: How would you describe the ambiance? Is it meant as a to-go spot or more of a sit down?
Francois: It lends itself to takeaway or dine-in.
Pulse: Who is your target demographic?
Francois: Our demographic is anyone looking for a healthy and delicious meal either to-go or to-stay in a welcoming environment.
Pulse: Do you see your UES Le Botaniste as a one off in New York or do you plan on expanding?
Francois: At this point, we are just focused on making Le Botaniste the best it can be. We have no plans to expand at this time.